Antiprognosticon That Is To Saye, An Invective Agaynst the Vayne and Unprofitable Predictions of the Astrologians

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Introductory notes

William Fulke (1536/7–1589) was a theologian who entered St John's College, Cambridge, in 1555, and probably graduated in 1558. He entered Clifford's Inn and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1560. At the inns of court, he developed strongly protestant convictions, and returned to St John's in 1562 or 1563 to study theology and the oriental languages. He had already written two books. Antiprognosticon (1560) attacked the practice of astrology. Fulke’s denial that astrology had a scientific basis constituted a radical attack on astrology in this period. Similarly, in A Goodly Gallerye (1563), a work on meteorology, he addressed another field where appeals to supernatural forces were common. But Fulke, a neo-Aristotelian scientist, explained the most unusual physical phenomena in terms of natural causation. As a theologian, he considered this entirely compatible with belief in God’s providence, and, in this selection from Antiprognosticon, he paradoxically reinforces the providential view of famine, dearth, and weather anomalies, as events which human astrologers cannot foresee, while pointing out, at the same time, that they have natural, scientific causes.

that is to saye, an Inuective a
gaynst the vayne and unprofitable
predictions of the Astrologians
as Nostrodame. &c. Tran
slated out of Latine
into Englishe.

Wherunto is added by the author
a shorte Treatise in Englyshe, as well
for the utter subversion of that
fained arte, as also for the bet
ter understandynge of the
common people, unto
whom the fyrst
labour seemeth
not suffi
Habet & musca splenem & formicae suabilis inest.




[...] Tell me all you prognosticatours, by what reason it maybe called a science? but if this your methode & rule of prophesieng be not to bee noumbred among those sciences, which consist of thin ges certayne and immutable, what other thyng is this your knowledge but folishnes so greate, that foly her selfe coulde not light lye invent a thyng more fond and foolyshe. But peradventure your predictions, be they never so uncertayne, yet they maye bee profitable to the publike welth, so yt which your arte lacketh of certayntie, it recompenceth wyth utilitie: Nay rather with how greate evyls do you burden the cytie (I speake not of the horrible wonders that you threaten to fall on them) but what a dearth of vitayles youcause in the commen welth, while the farmers of the countrye (as I have good understandynge) belevyng your oracles of the imtemperaunce of wethers do so craftily dyspose their wares, yt in abundaunce of al thynges, the common people suffer a greate and grevous scarcity. What? is it to be kept in sylence, howe slowlye and coldly the people in the last yeare, seduced by the foolyshe [Page]prophesye of Nostrodamus addressed them selfe to sette uppe the true worshippynge of GOD and hys religion, good Lord what tremblynge was there? What feare?

What expectation? What horror? Leste all thynges sodenlye shoulde bee turned up sydowne, so that none almost of them that gave any credite to prognostications, durst be bolde to open their faythe and religion, whyche they bore in theyr hartes. Yea thys Nostrodamus reigned here so lyke a tyrant wyth hys south saiynges, that wythout the good lucke of hys prophesies it was thought that nothyng could be broughte to effecte. What shal I speake of the common peoples voyce? Thys daye the Bishoppe of Rome must be driven out of the parliament. To morow the Queene shal take upon her the name of supreame head. After xx. dayes all thing shall ware worse. [...]



TO begyn playnly as we entende to procede, we must fyrst calle to remembraunce, what matter we have in hande and then with like plainnesse declare, what playne order we ent [...]nde to take in discussyng of the same. Therfore omyttynge all colours of rhetor [...]ke, and all impediments of paynted speache, our pur pose is (to speake it at one breathe) utterly to overthrowe the science of astrologie. Astrologie (leste any man shoulde doubte, bycause it is no Englishe worde) is sayd to be a knowledge, wherby the practisers of it saye, that they can tell of all thyng that are not come to passe, before they come to passe, by the course & movyng of the starres, or els to describe it more plainely, is yt knowledge by whiche the prognostications be made, that tell of rayne and fayre weather, sickenes and health, warre & peace, plentie and dearthe, with suche lyke: By whiche also they cast your nativities, tell you [...]oure fortunes, pretende to gyve you knowledge of thinges that be lost: and last of all appoynt you dayes and tymes good or evyll, for all thynges that you have to doo. As, for workes of phisike, to let bloud to take purgations, and al other medicins [Page] for other common matters, to sow, to plant, to journey by lande, to journey by water, to bye and sell, to marye, to begynne anye woorke, and fynally to attempt any thyng that men use commonly in their lyfe to doo. Our intent is therfore in this shorte Trea tise to persuade all such as he therto beyng deceived by a false opinion of learnynge, have gyven credite unto them: that herafter (yf they see that all is not onely vayne, but also ungodlye) they cleane forsake them and theyr prophesie [...] as thyngs that lette them to prosper well in theyr busines and also hynder theim to put theyr truste in God and his promyses. For what confidence hathe be in god or his worde, that dare not take in hande any honest and ver [...]ous affaires (in which God hath promised to ayde and set forwarde all theim that love hym) except [...]e must fyrste aske counsayle of a blynde southsayer and Astrologian? And let them not be offended though I call theim blynde, for accordynge to the proverbe, Who is so blynde as, he that wil not see? But perchaunce so [...]me will say [...], that bycause I am blynde and ignoraunt in so goodlye a science, therefore I [...] dysprayse it. As towchynge that [Page] matter, they have no cause to say so, for be it spoken withoute diswoorshyp of any of theym, and with smalle pryde in my self, I knowe what the arte is as well as they, and so muche the rather doo I condemne it, leste seynge the vanitie and uncertaintie thereof, I shoulde bee counted as they are, wylfully blynde, and not seyng when theyr eyes bee open.



Concernynge revelation we have some [...]ynge sayde all readye, whereunto we wyll joyne this, that God use [...] not by his mynysters to reveale any knowledge unto menne, but suche as is to his glory and theyr profyte. Nowe what avayleth it to Goddes glorye, that mortall men shoulde have understandynge of all thynges that he purposeth to doo, as who shoulde saye, he woulde have men as cunnynge as hym selfe, or as thowghe he shoulde rule the world by theyr prognostications. And no profyte canne it bee to menne, to have suche knowledge, whyche yf it were true, (as it is moste [...]alse) they were not able to prevente. If, God therefore dooeth not reveals any thynge whiche is not to his glorye, and the proufyte of his creatures, me thynke that vayne objection is cleane put out of the waye. Lette this suffise for our purpose of inveyenge generally. Therefore proceede we to the particulars, whiche althoughe there bee as many as there bee dyvers actions, yet we wyll intreate onely of two [...]sortes: the one of foreshewynge the states of thynges and tymes, [Page]that other of chusyng dayes and oportunyties.

And to begyn with that whyche semeth chieffest amonge theym, to prognosticate of warre and peace, I mervayle that menne are so madde, as to looke for warre oute of theyr predictions, knowing that the cause therof proceedeth not of the starres, but of the devyll, whyche alwaye labourethe to breake the bondes of unitie and concorde, that shoulde be among christian men. And where doothe he plant the cause therof, but in the kyng, whose heart the scripture witnesseth, that as the divisions of waters, so is it in the lordes hande, and whether he will, he moveth it. Seyng therfore that the kyng is not subject to the influence of the starres, neyther is anye thing that procedeth from hym, governed by theim, and thenne consequentlye and necessarilye it folowethe, that all matters concernynge the commune wealthe, as warre and peace, discorde and rebellyon, lawes, and suche lyke, can neyther bee forshewen nor foreseene by Astrologie: dearthe and plentye bee caused by reasone of seasonable weather, or unseasonable: Then yf the starres have nothyng to doo with wether, they have lesse to dooe with plentie or scarcity, which ar caused therby.


As for clowdes wherof rayne commeth, they are drawen up in thynne vapours, by the heate of the sonne, into the myddle region of the ayre, and there, by colde, are made grosse, then by some wyndes they ar dissipated and dryven abroade, or elles by some resolved and drop downe. And thys is the cause for the moste part, of rayne & fayre wether, so ye except the uncertayntie of the wynd may be knowen by the stars, rayne and fayre wether can never be foreshewed. But wherof commeth the wynd I am sure they wyll not denye the Philosophers definition gathered oute of the seconde booke of his Meteors, which is, that the wynde is an exhalation whot and dry, drawen up by the heate of the Sonne, and for the weight of it selfe fallyng downe, is laterally or sydelonges caried aboute the earthe. By this definition all power of signifying starres is cleane excluded. And as towchynge the place frome whens the wynd bloweth, the same philosopher doth also declare, that as it hapneth the matter thereof to be caried, so frome that place it moveth. And here by the way where as I use the wordes of Happen and Chaunce, you muste not take me, that I meane the thynge shoulde come by blynde fortune or [Page]case: For I am of opinion, that nothyng commeth to passe without a cause, but my meanyng is, that by the causes and occasions therof, so it came to effect. But to returne into the way agayn, seyng the cause of the wynde is not forsene by the starres, no more can the wether that is partly caused by it, nor yet the dearthe or plentie whiche chaunceth by occasion of the weather, bee by Astrologie foreshewed. Then wi [...] al those [...]ut of your Prognostications, for what shoulde they doo there, of whiche it is impossible that you shoulde prognosticate. Sycknesse and healthe depende upon dyvers causes, but nothyng at al upon the course of the starres for what way soever the starres runne their race, yf there be in the body abundance or defect, or from outward by corruption of the ayre infection it must nedes be sycke: and it none of these bee, though all the starres in heaven with all their oppositions and evil tokens shuld meete in the howse of sicknesse, yet the body shoulde bee whole, and in good healthe. [...]



When a kyng is borne, is none borne el [...] but kynges? Or when a sclave is brought forth, is thir none els that season brought foorth but sclaves? Therefore yf they can not avoyde the mischefe of this answere, let them bee ashamed to practise any more suche vayne predictions, yea let them be astayde to use tellyng of fortunes, lest they be counted in that poynte as yll as wicked Ma [...]asses, of whome the scripture reporteth, that amonge other his synnes he had also regarde to soothsayenge and fortune tellynge. As for Consurynge, I wyll not charge them, bycause theyr predictions ar not so sure as they are wonte to make.

But perchaunce they wyll say that al that I have yet sayde, eyther agaynst their arte generally, or against these particulars, y [...] of no more strength then stubble or straw. Wherfore to shut up the gappe, I entende to laye a greate blocke in their waye. And I shall desyre, theym when they make answere, (if they make any at all) that accor [...]ynge to the proverbe, They wylle not stoumble at a strawe, and leape over a blocke. And the blocke that I wyll laye is of the heavy burthen that the Lord by the prophere Esays 47. Chapter threatneth unto Babylon the inventresse of this art, [Page] where h [...] sayth: Nowe let the heaven g [...]sers and beholders of starres, the moone prophetes come and delyver thee, yea and lette theym shewe thee, whan these thynges shall come upon thee: Beholde, (sayth he) they shall be as strawe, whyche yf it be kyndled with syre, no manne maye rydde it from the [...]hamence of the flame.

Doo you not heare, O you Astrologians, that the prophets saythe, that you canne have no knowledge of thynges to came, as of warre, syckenesse, dearthe, unseasonable weather, destruction, and suche other, whiche he threatneth unto Babylon. For it is manyfests, that this phrase or maner of speakynge, which the Prophete useth, Lette them shewe when these thynges shall come to passe, is a stronger [...]gation or denyall, thenne yf in playne woordes he hadde sayde: They can not shew [...] the [...], when these thynges shall comme to passe. Marke also what rewarde is promised to the users of this foreshewynge, that they shal be [...] in Goddes wrathe as straw [...] kyndeled with syre.

But I leave this to theyr wysedom and discretion to consyder, and wyll proce [...]ede to the second kynde of particulars, that is Elections or chusynges of dayes.

This is a selection from the original text


dearth, death, famine, health, science, straw, war

Source text

Title: Antiprognosticon That Is To Saye, An Invective Agaynst the Vayne and Unprofitable Predictions of the Astrologians

Author: William Fulke

Publisher: Henry Sutton

Publication date: 1560

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 11420 Physical description: [72] p. Copy from: British Library Reel position: STC / 1098:01

Digital edition

Original author(s): William Fulke

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) title page
  • 2 ) image number: 8
  • 3 ) image numbers: 29-30
  • 4 ) image numbers: 33-34
  • 5 ) image number: 37


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

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Genre: Britain > non-fiction prose > astrology and cosmology

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